The Western Bulldogs Premiership Recipe
The Western Bulldogs have a multitude of A-graders, including Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae and Lachie Hunter, who were instrumental in their drought-breaking premiership in 2016. However, they have since been on a downward trajectory.
The Dogs placed 10th in 2017 and are likely to finish 14th this season, and we must ask the question: what is needed for them to be premiership contenders once again?
It’s a cliché synonymous with AFL football, but history shows that often a side's ‘bottom six' is the most significant determinant of success. However, the Dogs fabled run to the flag in 2016, was defined by players including Caleb Daniel, Tom Boyd, Tory Dickson, and Clay Smith all witnessing dramatic increases to their output in September.
However, during the past two seasons, their ‘bottom six' players have not been able to step into more significant roles as they did in 2016. For instance, against Port Adelaide in Round 19, ten Western Bulldogs players gained under ten disposals.
Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter attempted to compensate for the underwhelming performances of many of their teammates as they gathered 36 and 35 possessions, respectively.
For the Dogs to be competitive in the future, they must manicure a list deep enough to maintain a competitive bottom-six despite significant injuries to significant players.
It is not a coincidence that the Bulldogs’ best performances in 2018, have come when the lesser names have stood up.
The Bulldogs' are the third lowest scoring team in 2018 and regularly are unable to capitalise on forward half entries; as a result, much of the Dogs' success will rely on the development of both Tom Boyd and Josh Schache.
In the Western Bulldogs premiership run Tom Boyd highlighted his potential. His 2016 grand final performance was spectacular as he dominated marking contests, kicked goals and even contributed well in the ruck.
If he can produce at a similar level on a consistent basis, in combination with Josh Schache development, the Dogs will manicure one of the best forward lines in football.
If Boyd and Schache can become solid contributors, Bontempelli will have greater freedom when he goes forward, adding further potency.
The Dogs lack experience in both their forward line and midfield. Most of their best players have played around 120 AFL games. However, there is a lack of leadership at the Bulldogs. Matthew Boyd was so influential both on and off the field in 2016 because these younger players could learn how to best prepare, recover and conduct themselves.
Of course, Dale Morris, Easton Wood and Liam Picken are very experienced players, but, as all three players have been consistently injured throughout the past two years.
Two players immediately come to mind who could have and would have provided this experience are Callan Ward and Ryan Griffen. Both players left the Dogs to play for GWS.
The recruitment of experience is far more critical to the development of the Western Bulldogs. At the next trade period, they should be willing to exchange high draft picks for established and highly experienced stars.
The Dogs will be very dangerous in 2019 if they can build a well-rounded list with more consistent contributors, develop key forwards and find another experienced midfielder or defender.
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